Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 16-22: Star Wars: The Alvin Awakens

In Theaters.

It’s the week before Christmas — and an onslaught of prestige pictures — but this week belongs to what is surely the most eagerly awaited movie of the year — maybe of several years. It’s the Next Big Thing that puts every other Next Big Thing to shame. It’s so big, in fact, that it’s hard to imagine anything ever living up to this level of furor again. Once Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens, what will be left to look forward to?

The thing that is most surprising about this week is that two other movies are being released. Why? I guess they had to go somewhere and this is the somewhere they landed. That they could find room is actually remarkable. I don’t know what the story is at the other theaters where Star Wars is playing, but The Carolina has six screens of it. That’s close to half the theater. (This imbalance won’t last, since there are, I think, seven movies opening next week.)




In addition to the Biggest of Next Big Things and the suicide duo, we also get Janis: Little Girl Blue — opening Friday in limited shows (7 p.m. only with 9:30 late shows on Friday and Saturday). This really solid and appealing documentary on Janis Joplin is reviewed in this week’s Xpress, where it got “Weekly Pick.” (Before you get too carried away, the only competition was In the Heart of the Sea.) It’s one of the best researched music documentaries I’ve ever encountered — and one of the most human, thanks to a narration made up of Joplin’s letters. For that matter, it’s also one of the best edited. If you’ve any interest in Janis Joplin, you need to act fast.




We also have (Clapton knows why) Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip — opening Friday (with no Thursday evening shows) at Carmike 10 and The Carolina. The poster assures us this is “FAST & FURRY-OUS.” What more needs be said? That this makes the fourth of these…things is alarming in itself, though I suppose it fits in with the general state of the world. The good news from where I sit is that I reviewed the first one, Justin Souther reviewed the second, I reviewed the third — and that means, yes, indeed, it’s Justin’s turn in the chipmunk barrel!




And then there’s Sisters — opening Friday (with Thursday evening, etc.) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. This appears to be yet another of those two-women-one-raunchy-com things. In this case the women are Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and the raunchy-com revolves around said siblings throwing one last wild party at the house they grew up in before their parents sell it. It’s from director Jason Moore, who was responsible for Pitch Perfect (2012), for what that’s worth. Intriguingly, Sisters is opening with 23 reviews, and 20 of them are positive. That they’re also mostly British reviews might be worth factoring in.




Finally, there’s, yes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens — opening Friday (and, most certainly, Thursday evening) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Co-ed of Brevard, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. (In other words, it sucks to be the Beaucatcher.) Here it is, have at it, knock yourselves out. I have no great personal interest in this, but I seriously hope it’s everything everyone hopes it will be. Yeah, I’ll be there and I’ll review it and all that — not that anyone really cares what critics say about it.

Now, what we lose this week gets tricky because Star Wars has thrown things into a mess. The easy one is to note that Brooklyn loses its 7 p.m. show (and the 9:30 Fri-Sat late shows) at the Fine Arts. Brooklyn has also been split with Spotlight at The Carolina, while Trumbo has been split with Creed, but just how these splits are being handled is up in the air at the moment. I can safely say, on the other hand, that Macbeth will be gone come Friday — and most (maybe all) will be washed away next week. OK, here’s how those splits at The Carolina work out — Brooklyn (1:45, 7:30), Spotlight (10:55 a.m., 4:20, 10:10 p.m.), Trumbo (10:50 a.m., 1:30. 4:10, 9:454 p.m.).

Special Screenings




This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has with Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974) on Thu., Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Milcho Manchevski’s Before the Rain (1994) on Fri., Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Asheville Film Society continues its seasonal Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers (2003) on Tue., Dec. 22 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.


This week we find Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, He Named Me Malala, Ted 2, and Fantastic Four. I’d go with the first two and leave the others alone.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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49 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 16-22: Star Wars: The Alvin Awakens

  1. Edwin Arnaudin

    I recommend Oren Moverman’s Time Out of Mind a.k.a. Homeless Richard Gere, which is now Netflix Streaming.

    • Ken Hanke

      No. I really thought it already left. I never understood why it kept hanging on because it ever did much business.

  2. NFB

    Which has the more annoying fanboys: Star Wars or Marvel?


    • Ken Hanke

      Not that I have any intention of getting into this, but why overlook the Christopher Nolan contingent?

      • NFB

        Hmmmm….well I guess because Nolan fanboys are an annoying that is all their own.

        • Ken Hanke

          Fanboys are kinda interchangeable, though by the time they’re Nolan ones, they’re dropping more hi-toned jargon.

    • Big Al

      Is there a difference?

      Most (if not all) comic adaptations of Star Wars were done by Marvel.

      • Ken Hanke

        I wouldn’t know. The movies, in any case, were not done by Marvel.

    • Ken Hanke

      Offhand, no. We should be getting Youth and The Danish Girl on Christmas. Also The Big Short (12/23) and Concussion, though those aren’t really “art” titles.

  3. Me

    Finally caught up with Spotlight and I agreed with every word of your review. It was a tiny bit reminiscent of the last season of The Wire were they focused on the newsroom, coincidently that was the season that Thomas Mccarthy was in.

  4. sally sefton

    “That they’re also mostly British reviews might be worth factoring in.”

    i would love to know what this means.

    • Ken Hanke

      It means simply that there are some notable differences in taste between the US and the UK.

    • Ken Hanke

      There are by now 152 positive reviews vs. a scant 8 negative ones. It’s in no danger of being damaged by critical response, but then it never was.

      Am I jaded about it? Well, yes, I am, but I’ve been jaded about it since 1977 when I first saw the original at the age off 22. It’s as well to remember that this is not part of my childhood, and I can’t change that. When I left the theater I left with the sense that I had just seen a 1930s Flash Gordon serial with slicker effects, a bigger budget, and (mostly) better acting. I liked it well enough, but that’s where it ended.

      The truth is I do not expect this new incarnation to suck. Neither do I expect to be blown away by it. Maybe I will be. Who knows? I’m certainly not begrudging anyone his or her excitement over it.

      • Able Allen

        Fair enough. I think you’ll try to give it a fair shake. I am mostly disgruntled about the dismissive fan boy comment from NFB. I think Disney has done an incredible job of bringing content I have long loved to me in a new and contemporary way over the past few years. First with the Marvel anthology and now (I hope) with Star Wars.

        • Ken Hanke

          You kind have to admit (I think) that fanboys bring this on themselves by going ballistic over some critic or other “ruining” a movie’s perfect 100% score on an aggregation site. This sort of thing makes it very hard to be sympathetic.

          • NFB

            My “dismissive” comment about fanboy is the result of what the Star Wars franchise has done to movies. Several years ago, when the original trilogy was released in theaters, Time magazine (I’m pretty sure it was Time, maybe it was Newsweek) had a cover story about how everything that was wrong with movies was because of these movies. I don’t remember all the specifics but it seemed to make a pretty good case. Among the reasons I recall were:

            * It was the moment when blockbusters quit being movies that everybody wanted to see once and started becoming moves 14 year old boys wanted to see 30 times.
            * The emphasis on movies became special effects rather than plot, character development, and acting, etc.
            * Movies became as much (if not more) about marketing and merchandising as they did about being, well, movies.

            I saw the original Star Wars movie in a theater (the old Merrimon Twin to be exact) as a young kid during its original run. I enjoyed it but was puzzled by the obsession and almost worshipful reaction so many people had to it and this was before I was old enough to think of movies as an art form and saw them only as entertainment. I also saw the other two movies of the original trilogy in theaters and had the same reaction.

            Alec Guinness had something of an love/hate relationship with the first movie. Even when nobody thought the movie would make much of a profit he opted to take a cut from his usual fee in exchange for a small percentage of the box office. He said that it wasn’t until he made that money that he (one of the greatest actors ever) was able to start being more selective of the movie offers he received. At the same time he hated the movie and said that it was his idea that Obie Wan Kenobi be killed off telling George Lucas that it would make him a “stronger character.” He also admitted that the real reason he suggested that was because it would mean “I wouldn’t have to say anymore of those bloody awful lines.”

            Like Mr. Hanke says, a lot of fanboys (and not just Star Wars ones) bring the backlash on themselves. Some movie critics who dared to give one of the Nolan Batman movies (“The Dark Knight”) a less the perfect review got death threats, and then there was the “rating war” that when on by many of these same fanboys determined to get it to #1 on the IMDB top 250 who started slamming “The Godfather” with 1 ratings in an effort to achieve this goal (the result was retaliation by “Godfather” supporters and the result put “The Shawshank Redemption” at #1 moving “The Godfather” to #2). I mean really now. Why is it so important to them?

  5. Ken Hanke

    So…who’s actually going to see this Star Wars thing tonight?

        • Ken Hanke

          Well, I know Jeff Messer is doing that tonight…and tomorrow night. He’s what you’d call a True Believer.

  6. Able Allen

    I went to see Star Wars at the (very) late RPX showing down at Biltmore Park. There are things that could have been done better (I don’t love the First Order as the evil presence. They were to unabashedly Fascistic. But there is room to develop them). Over all though, it was the movie I was hoping for. I had an excellent experience. I laughed (a lot). I cried (a little). I was touched and amazed. Disney really came through for the fans with the right mix of call backs and original feel to new style and a feeling for the wants of Millennial (let’s say 2nd generation) fans.
    As for the fanboy thing. I know why you say it, I agree that people can let their fandom get the best of their social behavior. That doesn’t mean it isn’t sort of mean spirited to those who value their connection to a modern mythology.

    • Ken Hanke

      That doesn’t mean it isn’t sort of mean spirited to those who value their connection to a modern mythology.

      But name-calling, abuse, threats, and even trying to get a critic fired for not loving a movie enough is okay?

      • Able Allen

        Now come on, I know you didn’t ask me that, as if I’m implicitly defending abusive behavior. That isn’t fair. That statement just made me feel lumped in with them because I value Star Wars and what it means to me. Maybe fan-boys means some specific anti-critic breed to you, and I don’t understand that. I just read it and went: “I’m a fan; I’m a boy. That is sort of hurtful to me to call me annoying.” I know you didn’t mean me specifically, but it made me feel dismissed for loving this story.

        • Ken Hanke

          “Fanboys” are distinct from fans and are not strictly gender-based. It’s a certain type of obsessive who goes out of his (or her) way to seek out reviews that are insufficiently worshipful of whatever hobby horse in question. It used to be more widespread when Rotten Tomatoes allowed readers to comment on reviews (or more likely the break-out quote). Once they stopped that, it became more difficult. Ask yourself this — if I gave the new Star Wars a bad review would it piss you off, shake your faith in your own judgment? Would you pitch a fit, make sweeping generalizations about my critical faculties, and cast doubt on my parentage? If you wouldn’t do those things — or give movies you have yet to see solid 10 ratings on the IMDb — then you’re not a fanboy.

          • Able Allen

            Thanks for clearing that up, Ken. I guess I’m not a fan of fanboys either.

          • Ken Hanke

            By the way, Able, I am not saying I’m going to give it a bad review.

        • Ken Hanke

          I’m not questioning the quality of the films (though I remain unimpressed with The Duke of Burgundy), but the soundness of her reading of them.

    • Ken Hanke

      Probably right after the first of the year. I really don’t want to close out the year before seeing The Hateful Eight.

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